I have a couple of translated Japanese light novels from Seven Seas, and the paper used feels different and is a darker color that that of the white office paper that I am commonly exposed to. I also seem to vaguely remember the paper in these novels being the same in the Harry Potter books I used to read a kid.

I am wondering if this paper is different from the general white office paper I normally see. Why it is used? Is it cheaper or does it have special qualities suited for book printing?

Bellow are some photos I have taken though I'm not sure if the differences are really as noticeable in digital form compared to real life.

light novel office paper

The one of the left is from one of the Japanese light novels who's paper seems to be the same used in the Harry Potter books I used to read. The right one is just a piece of paper that was printed off. As you might be able to see in the left one the paper is darker that the white office paper.

There is also a grain effect in the paper on the left (which I don't believe is a style thing) that isn't on the white paper; though this might be hard to see because of the fact these are photos.

  • 3
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is not about writing.
    – user16226
    Oct 12 '16 at 13:40
  • 1
    @mbakeranalecta would it be on-topic if it was worded to be in the context of publishing?
    – Memor-X
    Oct 12 '16 at 21:46

There is no single paper used. Depends on the market's target audience, pricing, and expectations of durability.

If you self-publish a novel using an American print-on-demand service, you may be offered a choice of two papers. One of them is white, generally used in non-fiction. The other is off-white ("creme") and is generally used in fiction. The white paper is better for books containing images (which non-fiction often has) and also projects a feeling of authority. The off-white is easier on the eye, when read for a long time, and projects a casual feel.

Other papers are possible. A book printed in Asia, especially if it is intended to be inexpensive, may be printed on a less-expensive version of "rice paper" (not actually made from rice plant). Such pages are noticeably thin and light. Books anywhere may be printed on very expensive paper if they are intended for the book-as-art market.

The papers currently in use in the U.S.A. for a novel, even for print-on-demand, are likely to be acid-free archival paper, perhaps 80lb weight. This gives a nice feel to the pages, and is durable. It's not worth saving money with cheaper paper.

If a book is very image-intensive, it may be printed on a kind of paper that is specially coated for better image reproduction. The paper (cellulose) is relatively light-weight, but the coating makes it much heavier (which is why college textbooks, with images, are so heavy). If a book is the kind of memoir that has a few photographs, then the flowing text may be printed on ordinary archival paper, while the images are separately printed on coated paper.


Every paper is different. Different manufacturers make paper differently. The composition of the paper, how the fibers are macerated and felted or woven, what coating or sizing is used; all of these will affect the quality and feel of the paper.

International paper has a stock book that describes their current lines. It may give you a feel for the different papers available commercially.

  • Acidic paper can also age more rapidly, so an originally white paper can become yellowish. Nov 25 '15 at 3:07

The most commonly used paper is (arguably) Newsprint. Because it's cheap, very easy to get hold of, and is non-archival (i.e.: it breaks down easily).

Pretty much every paperback in the west uses it for mass market paperbacks.


Other papers may be used; especially for large-format books that need to maintain their shape. They will tend to use acid-free paper that is usually white. It tends to have higher gsm, and is designed to be more durable.

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